Elizabeth Comer had a desire to learn to read

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Originally published in 1980 is an incredible story about Elizabeth Comer’s desire to learn to read.  This story  shows that you are never too old to learn.

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

Learning to read and write doesn’t come easy to a lot of students, and Elizabeth Comer was no exception.

But she got a late start.  Most people begin learning those skills at age 5 or 6.  But Mrs. Comer was 95 when she started school.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I’m happier and enjoying living right now more than ever before,” Mrs. Comer said recently as she rocked in her chair in her daughter-in-law’s home off the Banks highway.

Mrs. Comer, or “Mama Bess” a she is affectionately called, has lived in Pike County all of her life.  All 103 years of it.

Mama Bess has always been alert and active.  When she was 95 she enrolled in the Adult Basic Education program and became the oldest ABE student in the state.

She still likes to read the Bible, but her eyes are weak and it is becoming increasingly difficulty for her to see the words of her favorite scripture, the 23rd Psalm.

Her 70-year old niece, Estella Rumph, who is enrolled in a Right-to-Read class, occasionally reads to Mama Bess.

A confirmed church goer, Mama Bess said, “Going to church is my number.”

She likes to sing the hymns in church.  “I keep up a racket,” she said.

Mama Bess lives in the modest frame house with her daughter-in-law.  “She has lived to see all her children dead and buried.” Mrs. Rumph said.

Even though she has lived longer than her children, Mama Bess has grandchildren scattered all over the country.

Sitting in her rocking chair in front of a warm heater Mama Bess wears a heavy sweater and a knit cap as if to ward off the chill of the passing years.

Her walking stick is kept across the arms of her chair.  She doesn’t need it much, except as a switch to “make them do right,” she quipped.

Even though she is hard of hearing and her eyes are getting weaker, Mama Bess still enjoys life.  And at 103, she has advice for young people today.

“Don’t drink and don’t use tobacco—there’s no happiness in it,” she said.

She sits in her chair, her eyes as bright as the sun streaming in the open doorway.  “This is the best time of my life,” she comments.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.